The Three Pointer: An Opportunity Lost
By Stephen Litel
Special to City Pages
1. No rest for the weary
Against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, Kevin Garnett looked tired. One can hardly blame him after carrying this franchise on his back for over a decade now, but, in this particular game, the fault lies with Coach Dwane Casey.
While Garnett was struggling to hit a shot in the first half and with Craig Smith playing at the level we've nearly begun to expect from him, Casey rolled the dice. He allowed the often sleepy-looking Eddie Griffin an opportunity he hasn't had for awhile... Griffin was actually allowed to step foot onto the court against real competition. Not practice. Not shoot-around. Real competition. The gamble actually paid off for Coach Casey as it turned out to be one of those rare occasions in which Griffin resembled something close to an NBA player rather than Frankenstein on sedatives.
On these rare days when both Griffin's body and mind seem to be in the arena at the same time, Coach must be able to take advantage of it. In only the eighth game of the season, Garnett looks as if he needs a summer vacation. Yet, the Timberwolves star was on the court for 37 minutes, sitting down in the fourth quarter due to exhaustion and returning when the game was all but over. Griffin certainly cannot be counted on to give Garnett a breather every night, teasing Minnesota's team and fans with one good game followed by three bad ones, but when he decides to show up, use this gift and rest Garnett for crunch time.
2. Where was Foye?
Understanding that Trenton Hassell and Troy Hudson were having relatively productive evenings on the offensive end of the court, combining for 17 points on 7-13 shooting, this was a missed opportunity to get Foye important minutes against a quality opponent. In a game such as this where Ricky Davis shoots 2-10, scoring only 4 points, Foye needs to be the first guard off the bench. This point is amplified when Marko Jaric plays 20 minutes and scores a single point as well.
In the two regular season games in which Foye has been allowed 20+ minutes, he scored 12 and 13 points respectively. He has shown the ability to penetrate the defense and get to the foul line, putting pressure on the defense while spreading the floor for teammates. As Foye told me last week, he prefers to play the lead guard position and making the decisions for his teammates. This is an area where he excelled in college and needs the opportunity to hone these skills on the professional level.
Starting Foye in the backcourt alongside Mike James allows Ricky Davis the opportunity to be a team player and come off the bench. Remember, Davis nearly won the Sixth Man of the Year award a few years back. With the addition of Foye to the starting lineup allows Foye to play with the first team and develop at a faster pace while Davis can shoot his way out of his season-long slump dominating the second units of the opposition.
3. Give credit where credit is due
Mark Blount is quietly having a solid season. Going into the game with Cleveland, Blount's season stats were two points above his career scoring average and nearly two rebounds above as well. Yet, stats alone do not tell the entire story with Blount.
Blount has played solid team defense this season and is causing his fair share of missed shots. Most importantly, he actually looks motivated and engaged in playing basketball this season. Maybe that is due to Glen Taylor's comments in Britt Robson's flabbergasting interview with the team owner or due to his work with the retired navy seal during the off-season or a combination of the two, Blount should sit down with Eddie Griffin and discuss how to get yourself out of a career-long funk and how to overcome it.
Will Blount, or "Bliz" as Garnett calls him, ever be an All-Star? Absolutely not, but he is a great fit with Kevin Garnett and on this team that is all that matters. The two-man, high-low game that Garnett and Blount play sporadically is a thing of beauty. Now, if Minnesota could work a trade of one of the surplus of guards on this team for a big man who rebounds and intimidates inside, this team would be much improved.